Tuesday, October 23, 2007
LET A MAN DO WHAT HE WANNA DO
Lee Fields initially made his name among die-hard funk fans with a series of hard-hitting singles recorded for various small labels during the '70s. Everything about Fields -- his look, his vocals, the grooves on his records -- was so indebted to James Brown that he earned the nickname "Little J.B." Fields never hit it big, but his rough-and-tumble singles went on to become popular collectors' items. After a lengthy hiatus, Fields returned in the '90s as a soul-blues belter playing to female-heavy audiences on the Southern circuit. Thanks to sample-obsessed hip-hoppers and British rare-groove aficionados, interest in obscure vintage funk reached a peak in the late '90s, and Fields was fortunate enough to have remained active when new recordings in the style became a viable proposition. Energized by his return to raw, heavy, James Brown-style funk, Fields emerged as the leading light of the deep funk movement with a series of recordings that often equaled, and sometimes outdid, his early work.
Judging by his performance on his Desco Records debut full-length, "Let's Get a Groove On," Fields' move to the pioneering old-school funk-revival label freed him to do the kind of gritty, authentic funk album he'd been itching to record for quite some time. With the help of the Desco house band, the Soul Providers (who would eventually morph into the powerhouses THE DAP KINGS), this LP features a richly organic set of guitar-and-organ-dominated funk backings. "Let A Man Do What He Wanna Do" represents Fields and his cohorts at their rawest: rubbery bass lines, punchy horns, and a mad groove that doesn't relent.